Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sol Gabetta amongst the hush of zombies

At first glance, this pairing of entities might seem rather odd ...

Firstly, (and in the mind's of movie directors certainly) zombies are renowned for being a fairly raucous breed, and secondly (in a far more concisely-put fashion): what the shit?!


We received Sol Gabetta's 2008 cantabile album in the mail today; my wife had discovered her a month or so back and ordered the disc. If you haven't heard her before, here she is performing the 3rd movement "Allegro" from Antonio Vivaldi's Concerto Number 4 f-moll "The Winter" (unfortunately embedding has been disabled).

But anyway, back to Sol Gabetta and zombies ... a whole room of them, in fact.

One of my favourite things about orchestral music (having only recently become an avid listener, hence no technical term to describe the following) is all of the surrounding noise associated with various musicians shifting in their seats, the moving about of instruments, coughing, breathing, and whatever else happens to be captured; such miscellany a constant reminder of the performers behind the work itself: ghosts in the machine. And whilst all of this background clatter remained part of the performance and on tape (again, my knowledge of the recording techniques employed in classical music is zero) what caused a mild sense of unease at the closure of each piece was the lack of any applause, which (due in no small part to the Fluoxitine Blues) had me imagining the orchestra playing before an audience of corpses; the scene awkwardly reminiscent to the band performing as the Titanic sank ...

Of course, my limited exposure to classical music doubtlessly accounts for a considerable quantity of stereotypes at present, so this could hardly be considered a reprimand of the album - merely an amateur observation.

This portrayal (of simultaneous beauty and of death) also tied in with another image I'd similarly-conjured earlier this morning whilst listening to The Cure's Hanging Garden, whereby the garden was viewed as an open cemetery with recently hanged cadavers gently swaying about in a moonlight breeze. 

And so it was that Sol Gabetta's album served as a pleasant dichomatic after Pornography in its entirety - and another accomplishment of cantabile was to restore my faith in the medium of compact discs, which I'd silently vowed to give a wide berth from here on out. 

My thoughts on the wholesale pillaging of dynamic range in contemporary music has been well documented in previous posts here on Nosebleed Cinema, to the point of actually attempting to set up a new system called VAMP as a transparent counter-movement (see here and here). 

Below is what Sol Gabetta and The Prague Philharmonic Orchestra's O Mon Cher Amant looks like in wave form: 


And I thought Canute Whispers was recorded at a low volume (the average RMS for a track being approximately -21dB). 

The song pictured above, however, has an average RMS of -28.8. 

AND no peak rises above -7dB!